Olympique de Marseille won 2-0 at SM Caen on Friday to move back into second place with a fourth successive win and close to within nine points of leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
SM Caen 0-2 Olympique de Marseille
Olympique Lyonnais could reclaim second spot from Rudi Garcia's men when they host PSG on Sunday evening, but OM again showed the seven-time French champions and the current title-holders, AS Monaco, they will be in the hunt for an automatic UEFA Champions League group-stage qualifying place.
OM had last been beaten at Caen some 20 years ago, but would have been behind on 19 minutes but for the offside flag tat denied Ivan Santini the opening goal. The Croatia international had finished a Jonathan Delaplace cross from close range after Bouna Sarr had failed to halt the hosts' forward progress.
The Stade Michel d'Ornano crowd breathed a sigh of relief when referee François Letexier did not point to the penalty spot after Vincent Bessat had barged into Florian Thauvin (26'), and held its breath as a Clinton Njie header flew wide (34').
The Cameroon international had been restored to the starting XI after playing a goalscoring cameo in the midweek win over RC Strasbourg Alsace as had Dimitri Payet, who was instrumental in the visitors' promising first half.
It might have counted for little had Steve Mandanda not beaten away a Baissama Sankoh drive just before the break (45+2'), but Caen, who had failed to win their last three home matches, rarely threatened.
The hosts were undone ten minutes into the second half when Bessat did not escape sanction for a challenge on Sarr (55') - Payet had injured Strasbourg goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja with a body swerve last Tuesday; he sent Caen number one Rémy Vercoutre the wrong way too, but the former Lyon man's only problem was the goal he conceded.
Vercoutre moved smartly to turn away an Njie effort (62') before Thauvin took his goals tally in Ligue 1 Conforama into double figures to cap another positive individual display on 74 minutes and Lucas Ocampos might have added another but for Vercoutre (76').
THE PLAYER: Florian Thauvin
The France international has picked up where he left off in 2017, notching his tenth league goal to add to the nine assists he has also provided. He is now just five strikes short of the career-best 15 goals he tallied last season, and looks more and more like a certainty to be on the plane to Russia for the World Cup with every passing week.
THE STAT: 20
Caen have not beaten OM in Normandy since Frédéric Née proved their matchwinner in 1997.